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Understanding color and white balance

From: Up and Running with Lighting: Studio Lights and Flash

Video: Understanding color and white balance

Different light sources have different color temperatures, which can translate to a color cast in your images. Fortunately, digital cameras have a white balance setting, usually identified by WB, which is either a button, or you can find it in your menu settings. The WB control is used to compensate for any difference in color temperature, and allows the camera sensor to record the whites as true white, eliminating any color cast. When your camera is set to AWB, which means auto white balance, it attempts to adjust for the color temperature in your scene, and then makes its best guess for the proper white balance exposure.

Understanding color and white balance

Different light sources have different color temperatures, which can translate to a color cast in your images. Fortunately, digital cameras have a white balance setting, usually identified by WB, which is either a button, or you can find it in your menu settings. The WB control is used to compensate for any difference in color temperature, and allows the camera sensor to record the whites as true white, eliminating any color cast. When your camera is set to AWB, which means auto white balance, it attempts to adjust for the color temperature in your scene, and then makes its best guess for the proper white balance exposure.

So what I'm going to do is take a shot, and leave my camera set to auto white balance, and I'd like to introduce you to my friend Jonathan. (LAUGH) Jonathan's also a student of mine. You'll be seeing more of him later in the course, but today, he's going to help me out a little bit, so I can take some pictures, and show you some examples of using white balance in your images. So, I'm going to start off by taking our first shot with an auto white balance and Jonathan's looking good as always. Okay.

You look great, but you know what, this picture is looking kind of a little pink. Because this default auto white balance setting doesn't always make the best guess regarding your particular conditions, you may end up with different color casts even if you only slightly re-position your camera. To resolve this issue, you need to take control and select one white balance setting for each specific lighting scenario. To do this, find your camera's white balance setting, scroll to the white balance options, like daylight, cloudy, incandescent, fluorescent, and so on, and then pick the one for your specific lighting condition.

There are a couple of other ways to achieve more accurate results when white balancing your images. If your camera has a Kelvin white balance option, you can dial in the temperature of the light you're working with if you know it, but even better than that is custom white balance. The most accurate method for setting white balance is to use the custom white balance setting your camera offers. Now, using custom white balance amounts to shooting a gray card kind of like this one, and using it as a reference and setting your camera to shoot in a custom white balance.

So I'm going to shoot a picture with Jonathan using this. Okay, Jonathan, you just need to hold that right in front of you, and I'm going to take another shot of Jonathan. I'm still in auto white balance right now. Take another shot of Jonathan, holding the gray card. Thank-you very much. Good job. And now, what I'm going to do is set my camera, to custom white balance, and I just go into the menu settings, use that image I just took as a reference, say okay, and then make sure in my white balance setting on my camera that I've clicked on custom white balance.

Now I'm going to take another shot and I bet he's going to look even more fabulous. (NOISE) Looking good. I'll take two just in case. So now that you've seen how to do this, I recommend you try it out for yourself if custom white balance is an option on your camera. Now it may sound a bit impractical, but it can really help improve the color accuracy in your images.

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